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Unilateral Flip Flop

Back in 2007, when now VP Joe Biden was campaigning for the presidency, he was asked the following question:

QUESTIONER: I have a great fear that say you’re elected as the nominee of the party. Next August sometime during the summer, Dick Cheney and George are going to bomb Iran.

BIDEN: Legitimate concern.

QUESTIONER: What can you do about it?

BIDEN: I am not one, who if you’ve observed me for some time, I am not one who’s engaged in excessive populist rhetoric. I’m not one that pits the rich against the poor. I’m not one who’s gone out there and made false threats against presidents about, and god love him he’s a great guy, I’m not Dennis Kucinich saying impeach everybody now. But let me tell you, I have written an extensive legal memorandum with the help of a group of legal scholars who are sort of a stable of people, the best-known constitutional scholars in America, because for 17 years I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

I asked them to put together [for] me a draft, which I’m now literally riding between towns editing, that I want to make clear and submit to the Untied States Senate pointing out the president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran. And I want to make it clear, I want it on the record, and I want to make it clear, if he does, as chairman of the foreign relations committee and former chair of the judiciary committee, I will move to impeach him.

Has anyone asked Biden his opinion of Obama taking part in the attack on Libya without consulting Congress?



  1. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I’ve been trying to figure out why I have had conflicting emotions concerning Libya and here is what I have been thinking and figured out.
    If Bush 43 had done the same thing the cries for impeachment and war crimes would have been overwhelming because of politics. But, Bush would have been correct. After the Gulf war in 91 we did not finish the job and relieve Saddam of power. The great statesman Clinton maintained a no-fly zone over Iraq, but stood by when a democratic uprising by Shiites in the south was crushed by Saddam leaving over 100,000 dead. We justified our inaction by saying it did not affect the security of our nation. After 911, when Bush 43 asked for a declaration of war and got it he made a huge mistake. He should have asked for the declaration for humanitarian reasons not a made up cause because everyone could agree that Saddam needed to go.
    We stood by again and watched 100’s of thousands killed in Rwanda, but it was not a threat to the USA, so we did nothing. In Bosnia and Kosovo we stood by wringing our hands and waiting for the UN to approve force and a no-fly zone. We waited way too long and 1000s upon 1000s were slaughtered.
    So Obama is faced with his choice, to intervene or not, to seek UN approval or go it alone. Tough choices for any President because we the people are so critical and intolerant of mistakes and have so many agendas. He sought his course, made his decision and acted. Bravo, Mr. President! He made the mistake of not consulting congress and not telling the American public until 7 days after. Ed Shultz on MSNBC last night tried to convince his audience that because he was out of the country on business it was an exceptable excuse. That’s just garbage! We can receive live battlefield reports from reporters in a war zone via satellite. Out President in a modern country could certainly have made a private broadcast to congress explaining the mission and a public broadcast to the nation telling us what he decided to do. However, mistakes being made, he was still correct.
    I got caught up with this mantra that somehow we should know the outcome of a conflict before we start one. Along with needing to know what form of Government will replace him and will it be friendly and oh my what if, lets wring our hands have a committee meeting, bring in the smartest of the smart. That is insane, who can predict the future. At the critical point leadership requires taking risk, if it does not then its management, which are 2 different things. Let there be no doubt that we will prevail, if we can put away politics and the who will win and lose in the politics game. Barack Obama was right to intervene, George Bush was right to get rid of Saddam. We should support Obama and encourage him to finish the job and get rid of Kaddafi and not leave him in power or leave Libya divided into a east and west, so he can continue his reign of terror.
    We are the greatest nation on earth and our military is the greatest fighting force the world has ever known. Sometimes we have to do what we were born to do, bring freedom to the world and let the nay-sayers and hand wringers be damned.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink
  2. swilldog wrote:

    key word: “unilaterally”

    the actions in Libya are being undertaken under the auspices of the UN’s Security Council ruling. what Biden was referring to above was if Dubya-Cheney decided to go rogue on their own. pretty big distinction.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    I agree Swilldog.

    But I’ve been thinking about the fact that I was appalled when the neo-cons started saber-rattling about Iran, and totally agreed with Biden then and would have been screaming for impeachment if we had started a war with Iran the same way we started a war with Iraq. Not because I agreed with his position that it was unconstitutional, but because I thought that attacking Iran would be a really stupid thing to do (far stupider than attacking Iraq, and that was pretty damn stupid), cost trillions, and end badly (if it ever ended).

    And yet, I support what is happening in Libya, and not just because he got UN involvement (although I am really happy he did).

    So, how do I reconcile those two views? Maybe the difference is the UN involvement. I note that once Obama sought UN approval it came very quickly and with strong support from our allies. Maybe it was important to get the Arab League to call for intervention, in order to avoid alienating even more Arab and Muslim countries and spawning even more terrorists.

    I disagree with PatriotSgt that it is our duty to bring freedom to the world through the exercise of military might. Not because I don’t want there to be freedom in the world, but because it can (and has) backfired horribly. But I think there is a compromise position, and that is to leave the spreading of freedom to the UN. Yes, it might cause delays, but it may also prevent us from getting into things like Vietnam and Iraq.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  4. Axel wrote:

    Perhaps a difference as well is that the action authorized by the UN Security Council allows for all actions intended to protect the civilian population of Libya WITHOUT committing ground forces.

    Also, Iran, though oppressive, has a publicily elected leadership, however questionable the last election was.

    There was also not a civil war raging in Iran at that time, nor is there now.

    I apologize for any spelling-errors. English is not my first language.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink
  5. Sammy wrote:

    How many more dictators are we going to eradicate…after helping them rise to power(or at least former “friend” status)?,8599,1194766,00.html

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink
  6. Iron Knee wrote:

    Interesting summary of the “Obama Doctrine”, based on Obama’s speech.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink
  7. starluna wrote:

    The idea of “flip flop” is interesting one to me. I would like to have leaders who are capable of changing their position when circumstances dictate it.

    Under what circumstances does a change in position constitute a flip flop and under what conditions is simply recognizing that old principles do not neatly apply to new conditions, realities, or sensibilities?

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Well, in this particular case, Biden was claiming that the constitution did not allow Bush to start a war without approval from Congress. And now, the administration he is part of did just that. If you read the PolitiFact entry on this one, they conclude that Biden was wrong in his earlier assertion.

    What I found personally ironic about this is that I think Biden was desperately trying to stop what was then viewed as a buildup to war with Iran by the neo-cons, and I’m definitely glad he helped stop that madness. But it is still true that his assertion that it would have been unconstitutional doesn’t pass muster and his silence when Obama did what he was accusing Bush of trying to do is a flip flop.

    Don’t get me wrong — I agree that it is a good thing to have someone change their position in changing circumstances. But when the changed circumstance is “we’re in power now instead of them” then I can’t agree. After all, what argument will he use the next time a Republican president tries to start a stupid war? Will it suddenly be unconstitutional again?

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

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